Lookout’s correspondents look back on their colleague’s most memorable stories and videos of the year.
As 2022 comes to a close, Lookout asked our correspondents to take a moment to reflect on the work of their colleagues.
From a searing investigation into pesticide use near schools, to the local renaissance taking place inside Capitola Mall, here is a selection of what we admired most from the work of other correspondents and photojournalists over the past year.
Wallace Baine’s pick
Kevin Reed’s radical ride, by Mark Conley
The Santa Cruz surf world is not all sunshine and good vibes. For generations, the surf community has carried some dark undercurrents, from addiction to homelessness to violence. Mark’s profile of surfer and skateboarder Kevin Reed put meat to the bones on those themes with a compelling tale of a once-star surfer and skateboarding hall of famer’s story of survival in the face of trauma and his own antihero instincts. Of all the stories Lookout produced this year, this one is probably the most revealing of the unique character of Santa Cruz.
Lily Belli’s pick
Hilary Ojeda’s story, Meet the Watsonville 8-year-old behind ‘D’ shoes, an award-winning invention for people facing dementia
There’s a reason Hillary Ojeda’s sweet story about a Watsonville kid’s invention went viral, earning nearly half a million views. Inspired by concern for his grandmother, who has dementia, 8-year-old Bradley Elementary student Kristopher Bayog invented a shoe that contains an alarm that goes off when the searcher sets off a button — just like what you’d use to find your car in a parking lot. The goal was to help find people like his grandmother who sometimes wander off in confusion.
As Hillary reveals, young Kristopher is already a skilled inventor. His desire to help others as well as his genuine nerves at presenting his invention in front of judges at his school and, later, in front of a national panel, is so pure-hearted that it brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat. In life, and especially in a newsroom, we are often confronted with hard truths and realities that can be difficult to digest. In this story, I was reminded that there is true goodness in this world and was both inspired and impressed by Kristopher’s talents.
Max Chun’s pick
Who is Bud Colligan?, by Wallace Baine
I could choose this story just because of the opening alone, but the piece gives us much more than that. We all recall last spring’s Measure D fervor well (a little too well, maybe). Wallace did an outstanding job of digging into the story of one of the biggest figures in the political battle while humanizing him at the same time — something admittedly difficult to do in the realm of politics.
Mark Conley’s pick
Wallace Baine’s story, ‘Don’t expect any oldies’: Bob Dylan comes to Santa Cruz
Wallace is at his best when he’s taking you places. While his visit to Big Sur institution Esalen was also an essential shared experience — and more on my to-do list than a Dylan show — this shared visit to the Civic hits all the right Wallace notes: nostalgia, curiosity, intrepidness … all spun together with sharp, bright observation.
Christopher Neely’s pick
Mark Conley’s Pressure building on pesticides, Driscoll’s says it will consider organic-only by schools
In the world of journalism, some stories cry to be told through narrative, others require data or other visual elements to guide the reader through complicated information. A real jewel of a story for journalists and readers alike is a combination of those styles; extra points if the story tackles a serious issue that reverberates through the community.
Folks, Mark’s story, which spotlights the real local harms caused by pesticides, as well as the new political energy around ending their use, is one of those jewels, with extra points added. This is crucial local journalism in two parts (the second part can be found here) and accomplishes what I consider to be among journalism’s highest tasks: giving a voice to the voiceless.
Hillary Ojeda’s pick
Lily Belli’s story, Thinking outside of the (big) box: Capitola Mall leans into local
Following Lily’s reporting on this story and then reading it was one of my favorite experiences this past year. First, the story challenged my ideas about malls — that they’re full of corporate-owned chains of retail stores that have no individuality. Second, Lily showed how one question can quickly turn into something bigger if you keep digging.
Kevin Painchaud’s pick
Mark Conley’s story, Yoda on your shoulder’: Three times he was nearly murdered but a ‘cop whisperer’ brought him back
Mark’s story talks about serious issues that police and frontline workers are not supposed to talk about. My dad is a retired cop, and he for sure was raised with the kind of outlook that you don’t talk about feelings.
Thomas Sawano’s pick
Come with us to the Benchlands: Listen to five voices of Santa Cruz’s unhoused, by Jody K. Biehl and Kevin Painchaud
When I heard about what Jody and Kevin were cooking up, I got really excited. It’s rare that newsrooms give unhoused people a platform outside the context of the latest encampment bust or ordinance passed — and rarer still to do so in a way that’s dignified. Jody and Kevin’s interviews are a breath of fresh air from the prevailing narrative that homelessness is a big, abstract policy issue for lawmakers to chuck at each other; it is that, but it’s also (fundamentally) about people.